Category Archives: Musings

Oregon Days

The massive stone headlands guard the cove from the wide expanse of the Pacific Ocean. Winds from the north or south can destroy any chance of good surfing, so finding shelter like this is special. We follow the meandering path down through the forest of Western Red Cedar, Hemlock and Sitka Spruce. A skinny creek runs alongside our course nourishing the roots of these massive trees. When full with rain it will carry worn pebbles to the beach before losing itself to the sand and sea.

The trail ends at a high bluff. The water is deep blue, and the waves are good. We’ve been surfing for decades, so it doesn’t take us long to pick a spot where the cove best captures the subtle bend and refraction of swell.

Will deftly positions a pin tail he shaped into the pitch of a fun right. On his feet in an instant, he grabs the rail, tucks, and leans on a Greenough fin to drive in front of the pocket. I hoot as he follows the curvature of the sea floor beyond my sight. Bobbing in the cool water, the skin of a wetsuit insulates my body. A breeze blows offshore bringing the warmth of land and smell of the forest.

My oldest son is there. I’ve fretted over him for years, but now I don’t need to apply such a careful eye. Will’s partner, Andrea, points. I turn to see him riding a fun left. He manages the speed and spontaneity well. Quality time spent in lower latitudes helps make the moment.

That night Andrea makes Manhattans, and we talk of surfing in her home country of Peru. We make indefinite plans. Will and my wife, Julia, grill leeks and meat. Our two boys poke the fire. That night we lay on the cool sand of the beach. The stars are at our fingertips. Aliens may have landed, but we were in our tents by then.

The next day we arrive late to a different beach. A towering dune of sand 250 feet high morphs into a stone promontory. Prehistoric waves broke at its base. A lone haystack stands guard further out. Grey whales breach and blow. The surf is good. It is the smell of sunscreen again; surf wax; and neoprene. A hint of wind. We paddle out. Chances appear on the horizon and attempts are made. But a more determined wind deteriorates the conditions. The union is over.

We will try again tomorrow.

Seattle to San Diego

It was a quick trip from Seattle to San Diego to catch some fun surf pushing southwest off of Hurricane Marie. I was little apprehensive to fly on a plane for the first time since COVID-19, but a recent tour of SeaTac made me feel better about it.

I met two friends who I grew up with in Charleston, one who lived 3 doors down from me on the same block. The special fact that three southerners were converging from our homes in Los Angeles, Encinitas and Seattle for 5 days of consistent California surf was not lost on any of us. We had a blast.

As I’ve moved into my 40s, I have found the 6’8 Crowd Killer by Lost to be my go-to travel surfboard for variable conditions whether paddling into deeper or steeper waves or battling offshore winds while still being quite maneuverable and dynamic. I also highly recommend these travel bags by Wave Tribe for being durable, protective and sustainably made.

Packed light for the plane so no professional photos this time. Oh well, more time for surfing…

Tahoma (Mount Rainier) National Park

For anyone who lives in the greater Seattle region, Mount Rainier (or maybe it is time for Tahoma National Park?) is a spectacle to behold. “She’s out” is a common refrain from Seattle/Tacoma residents when the weather is nice. The mountain dominates the horizon, and while majestic, poses a significant risk to an ever increasing population.

Considered a dormant active volcano, it is believed to have erupted as recently as the late 1800s. The mountain averages 30 small earthquakes per year, and there is geothermal activity around the crater that will rid its rim of snow not long after a snowstorm. More incredible are the mind boggling sizes of past mudflows that have raced down her flanks at speeds of 50mph and as high as almost 500 feet. Ancient forests have been found buried deep below the surface. And these flows have made it all the way to Puget Sound.

Glacial activity on Rainier continues to sculpt the landscape – and swallow the occasional climber. There are a total of 25 glaciers on the mountains, and the volume of snow and glacier ice is equivalent to that of all the other Cascade Range volcanoes combined. You could fill T-Mobile Park stadium in Seattle 2600 times.

Emmons Glacier is on the northeast flank of Mount Rainier, in Washington. At 4.3 sq mi, it has the largest surface area of any glacier in the contiguous United States. Photo by Robert Payne

Take the time to learn more about the impressive geology that has shaped greater Seattle and this mountain into what it is today. It will make you feel small and insignificant, but you will be a better person for it.

While Rainier continues to stew in her own juices and whisper to the underworld for direction on her next great show, we get to explore her flanks and marvel at the sheer magnitude of this 14,411 foot peak that rises some 3 miles above greater Seattle.

Photo by Robert Payne
Photo by Robert Payne

See you out there…

Mountains to Sea

Despite the limitations brought on by Covid-19, there is still been room to breath here in the Pacific Northwest. Time to slip and slide up a snowy trail in the Cascades as vegetation begins to emerge from the melt. A chance to paddle out and surf in the powerful and cold currents of the Pacific. As a father, there is little time to setup an epic photo, but my 10-stop filter comes in handy when I can’t wait around for the perfect shot.

Northern Cascades
Oregon Coast

Be The Water

I can be a creature of habit. I like certain routines. Comfort zones are my friend. With that being said, I’ve lived in 5 different states in the past 15 years. And in that same time I’ve worked for 4 different companies each with their own challenges, rewards and experiences. Most recently, I left a comfortable job of 7+ years to follow my wife to Seattle. I didn’t predict any of it.

I recently took my two boys to the gravesite of Bruce Lee and his son. I am not a cemetery seeker, but it was a sunny day in mid-winter, and the adjacent Volunteer Park designed by the Olmsted Company is a great place to visit. So we headed over. Standing in front of Lee’s grave reminded me of childhood and the awe of watching his movies. And not just his physicality, but the discipline and balance of his movements. He once delivered a now famous quote: “Be water, my friend.” I’m sure this quote represents different things for different people, but for me it is about being adaptable. It is about constantly improving based on whatever situations you face. And having the courage to break free from a pattern. So I am taking that and giving it to you as well for what it is worth.

Speaking of water, there has been a lot of it here in Washington recently, and I have had fun capturing it in its many forms. Side note: if you don’t know about eastern Washington geology then fire up Google and take a look. Imagine a skyscraper high wall of water moving at 80mph. You’d “be the water” whether you like it or not.

No water can be fun to!

Nicaragua

I recently returned to Nicaragua to welcome 2018 and take advantage of the world-class waves, constant offshore winds, and diverse landscape and culture. Again, I was not disappointed. I would keep my mouth shut it if it were not for the fact that Nicaragua is now regularly featured on travel sites like the New York Times. Gringos are not the only ones carving it in to the next Costa Rica. Nicaraguan investors know what kind of assets they have at their disposal.

Nicaragua has in fact been exploited since the Spanish arrived in 1522. The usual pillaging and plundering, along with the circulation of small pox, did a number on the Chorotega. Nevertheless, the contributions of the Spanish are still appreciated today. Granada is a charming colonial city reflecting the Spanish-Moorish architecture of the time. They also constructed the San Pablo Fort to protect Granada from pirates in 1789, and it can still be visited via boat.

Later on in the 1800s a dubious character from Nashville, Tennessee by the name of William Walker did significant damage on his filibustering campaigns in Central America. Not only did he burn Granada to the ground, but he also poisoned the wells with dead bodies that spread Cholera and killed some 10,000 Nicaraguans and Costa Ricans. Walker eventually paid for his actions when he found himself in front of a firing squad in Honduras.

Fortunately, Granada has time and again picked itself up and rebuilt. Before the Panama canal was constructed this was the shortest distance from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Cornelius Vanderbilt would steam up the San Juan River in to Lago de Nicaragua, and then make the short transport over to San Juan del Sur area on the coast of the Pacific. This route pumped money in to Granada and helped it to recover.

A few things you must do in Granada:

  1. Visit the San Francisco Convent to see the statuaries that have been excavated from Zapatera and Ometepe. A couple of these guys are in the Smithsonian, but you can see 30 of them all together in the same room. Each one represents the leader of the time, so they all have their own personalities. This is a highly informative account of their origins.
  2. Check out Mi Museo where there are many artifacts from Pre-Columbian times. It also helped me to understand where the Chorotega came from and when.
  3. Take a boat tour out to Las Isletas. These islands are a result of a massive explosion from Mombacho. Lots of wildlife, and you get to see the San Pablo Fort.
  4. Visit Volcan Masaya at night to see lava pouring from the crater. You definitely want to get there early to avoid waiting in line, but it is worth it.
  5. Tour the coffee plantation on Mombacho and then hike out to the stunning views of Granada and Lago de Nicaragua.
  6. If you still have time then head over to Pueblo Blancos to see local artisans at work. You will save yourself some money, for the shops around Granada certainly mark their prices up.

There are a couple of reasons why Nicaragua is safer than say El Salvador, Colombia, or Honduras. After the Nicaraguan Revolution, the country created a democratic police state in that each community would have at least one dedicated police officer that everyone knew. A bad apple arises, and they deal with the issue quickly. Second, drugs from Colombia and elsewhere go up the Caribbean side, so there are no cartels in the Pacific region.

Still, I wouldn’t drive at night. But during the day I generally went wherever I wanted. In the dry season you can get a way with a 2-wheel drive vehicle. But if the price is not much different then go with 4-wheel. I did end up using it along the coast to drive a section of road that terminated on beach front. It also gave me more confidence on dirt roads with potholes and stream crossings. In short, you are not limited and instead prepared for anything.

I’d tell you more about the surf breaks, but I just can’t do it. You’ll find it somewhere else. 😉

But I will tell you that I look forward to returning soon.

Have Kids Will Travel

Life has changed. Vacations no longer consist of sitting idly by the pool, or packing a nice, light bag solely meant for me.

There is no:

  • Why don’t I spend a bunch of time setting up this super artful photograph?
  • Gosh, that was such a great ski line, why don’t we hike up the mountain and do it again?
  • Man, I have been surfing for hours. Let’s go and chill on the beach with a beer.
  • Hey, let’s grab our kayaks and disappear for a few days down this super dangerous river where there is no cell reception!

You never know how much doing you are going to do when you say, I do, right? Now I have two young boys and life is very different.

When my first son was born a good friend said, “Welcome to manhood.” He couldn’t have been more right. Kids are the real test of will and perseverance. I swear every time I hear the word, “Dad,” another hair pops off my head.

But it is exactly what the freewheeling, fun-soaked, and child-free folks often hear from a subservient procreator like me….

It’s so rewarding.

Life is more challenging, and some days I feel like I’m walking around with my pant pockets turned inside out. But what a thrill to play witness and direction to my two boy’s endless discoveries. Here a just a few precious moments from this new adventure.

Click any image to view the gallery.

Costa Rica 2016

Quite a few changes to Costa Rica since visiting in 2007.

  • No Americans, French, or Germans to speak of.
  • All the roads are dirt.
  • Good luck finding air conditioning or a mobile phone signal.
  • No one is out surfing.
  • Realtors and developers have all moved on to Nicaragua.

Actually, only the last bullet is partially true.

Despite the changes I have to say it was nice not being so gripped on treacherous roads, although you still have to get your Costa on. I also have a fond memory of turning in to a decent size city for Costa Rica and being presented with a large bloated dead dog being picked apart by 6 or so vultures – now there is culture kids!

Other creature comforts consisted of not dealing with two young boys with chronic stomach cramps – thank you infrastructure and water treatment! Gas stations and grocery stores are prevalent, and more often than not the ATMs have cash.

So there you have it. It was indeed a great couple of weeks. The wildlife and surfing are still stunning, and the people are still charming. And I always thank my lucky stars for not having to be airlifted to a hospital; or more likely being placed in the back of a pickup truck and bounced down through the jungle as I come in and out of consciousness. Winning!

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If you want to see more photos go here – https://www.flickr.com/gp/rpayne/0r341B

The Light of the Lowcountry

I captured the above image in the direct sun of the afternoon by raising the f-stop up along with the shutter speed to cut the glare and sharpen the contrast. It reminds me of my youth when I would spend countless hours in the water idly passing the dog days of summer by with nary a care in the world. My how things change!

Click here to see the full image.